Undersized Archaic Humans

Artist’s reconstruction of Homo floresiensis.

Artist’s reconstruction of Homo floresiensis.
Image: Kinez Riza

Paleontological evidence suggests humans aren’t immune to the effects of convergent evolution. Homo sapiens is the last human species left standing, but plenty of other humans have walked the Earth, including Neanderthals, Denisovans, H. erectus, H. naledi, among others.

In 2004, scientists working on the island of Flores discovered evidence of a diminutive human species, called Homo floresiensis, popularly known as the Hobbit. Now extinct, this archaic human stood no taller than 3 feet and 7 inches (109 centimeters). Incredibly, evidence of a second diminutive species, named Homo luzonensis, was uncovered in the Philippines last year.

These species lived at roughly the same time—roughly 50,000 years ago—but nowhere close to each other. Their striking physical similarities has been attributed to an evolutionary process known as insular dwarfism, in which a species shrinks over time owing to limited resources. Perhaps not coincidentally, both human species lived on islands, which are known to produce diminutive species of various sorts.